Dirty Liquids

Our anchorage at the island of Houat was very well positioned for the 80 mile next leg to Les Sables d’Olonne. We knew that with the wind picking up and going NE, the anchorage would become exposed through the night but the convenience proved compelling so, tucked in close to the beach with 40m of chain down we settled in knowing that we would be away at first light.

A brisk NE wind necessitated two reefs but the fast broad reach rattled off the miles under a cloudless sky. The auto pilot had to work hard to cope with the quartering sea.

We have been experimenting with the gear which we will be using on the ocean passages planned for later in the year and I can report (more later) that we have learned a good deal.

The ‘Air Breeze’ wind generator had only been tried once before, soon after fitting it (it unplugs to make way for an outboard davit) two years ago and I had been concerned about it generating nicely for half a minute then stopping dead, this with what I considered to be fairly run down batteries. Earlier this year I dismantled the unit and took it into Barden, the suppliers for it to be checked. They said it was working perfectly so I put it down to an idiosyncrasy with the old batteries which were of unknown vintage.  In preparation for the adventures, I have replaced all of the batteries and supplemented the domestic capacity so that I now have 660AH in 3 deep cycle AGM batteries and I was hoping that this would help the situation. Once again the same pattern of charge-stop, charge-stop has persisted which is very disappointing as the Air Breeze is not a low budget unit and a vital part of my charging plan.


The manual had two suggestions, one was a safety limit to prevent damage in winds in excess of 50mph – not applicable here, the other was if the batteries were fully charged, also not applicable here.  During the course of the day with the auto pilot working away and sapping energy from the batteries, the wind gen seemed to begin to perform a little better and charging more consistently, it would still stop every now and then but with the battery voltage down to 12.4, which is quite low, it still stopped on a regular basis. This morning, with the batteries even lower the regular 30 second cycle has persisted.  I have sent an Email to Barden and anticipate some excess baggage when I return home at the end of June.

Regular readers (if there are any) of my missives will be aware of my tortuous fight with water in the bilge which has been going on since I bought the yacht. Having addressed a number of contributory factors, I finally declared the problem fixed with the discovery of a leak around an above water skin fitting which submerged when under way. Imagine my despair when, on inspection of the bilge a day into our passage from Portsmouth, I discovered a small cupful of liquid in the bilge. Traditionally, the first analysis is to check whether it is fresh or sea water by tasting it. This was certainly not fresh and if I had paused for a moment, I would have realised the cause and certainly not tasted it. Just before leaving I discovered a leak from the aft heads pump and Barry kindly offered to investigate as I was in Ireland visiting Rebecca, our daughter who has moved to Dublin. He found a split in the pump and replaced it with a new one. In doing so, the contents of the pump must have spilt into the bilge and the movement of the yacht on passage finally moved it to the lowest point. It seems I was actually tasting water from the toilet – delightful! I am pleased to report that the bilge has been perfectly dry ever since.

Les Sables d’Olonne was a very pleasant destination and arriving around 6pm, just before the marina office closed, we took a very convenient mooring alongside the visitor pontoon. A couple of ‘dirty beers’ was followed later by a decent meal in one of the plethora of quay front bars and restaurants.

With a 71 mile passage today to Royan, we slipped at 0600 and we are currently romping along in a good F5 on the port quarter. Our mission is to ‘fuel up’ and catch the shops for some essential victualling before a potential overnight (or two) on Tuesday to the Spanish coast.


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